Detective Stevens had seen the book among the deceased’s personal effects, and had been sufficiently intrigued to gingerly open it with gloved hands. There, in ink that had been wet enough to blot the opposite page when closed, the young woman with her head in the gas oven had written a meticulous account of how she planned to end her life and the silly, petty (in Stevens’ mind) reasons behind it.

He’d listed it as evidence at the inquest, but the volume had vanished before it could be consulted again–most likely taken by a family member worried about the poor young thing’s posthumous reputation, Stevens reasoned.

Fifteen years later, arriving at the house of someone who had dissolved a bottle full of sleeping pills in sparkling water, Detective Stevens saw the book again. The last page bore, in the dead woman’s own hand, her research on the dissolution of sedatives in carbonated waters and the personal and professional failings she felt had driven her to such.

How could he be sure it was the same volume? For one, leafing through the myriad and Bible-thin pages brought up that long-ago death by natural gas. For another, the dark leather binding and embossed writing were unmistakable.

The title? The Book of Ending Softly.